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SATURDAY, 19 APR 2014
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Pussy Riot members detained by police in Sochi
Reuters
Wearing masks members of Russian punk group Pussy Riot, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (L) and Maria Alyokhina (R) speak to journalists while leaving the police station of Adler, near Sochi, on February 18, 2014 after her arrest earlier in the host city of the 2014 Winter Olympics.(AFP PHOTO / ANDREJ ISAKOVIC)
Wearing masks members of Russian punk group Pussy Riot, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (L) and Maria Alyokhina (R) speak to journalists while leaving the police station of Adler, near Sochi, on February 18, 2014 after her arrest earlier in the host city of the 2014 Winter Olympics.(AFP PHOTO / ANDREJ ISAKOVIC)
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SOCHI, Russia: Pussy Riot protest band members Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova were detained Tuesday in connection with a theft in the Winter Olympics host city of Sochi, less than two months after their release from prison under an amnesty.

The pair were held for around three hours at a police station in the Adler district of Sochi, before appearing with other women on the steps outside wearing summer dresses, colored leggings and their trademark balaclava masks.

Some punched the air in triumph and sang songs as they left the building, where they were greeted by dozens of reporters.

The women had been in Sochi along with other members of Pussy Riot in order to record a musical film called “Putin will teach you to love the motherland.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin has staked his reputation on the Sochi Games, hoping they would show the world Russia’s modern face more than two decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Alyokhina, 25, said they and others detained with them were questioned without lawyers present, and Tolokonnikova said that police had used violence during questioning inside the police station.

“They dragged me across the floor of the police station assembly hall office by my face, they twisted my arms and threw me to the floor. Putin will teach you to love the motherland!” the 24-year-old wrote on Twitter.

Sochi police, who had told Russian agency Interfax that the women were being questioned in relation to a theft in the hotel where they were staying, said they had no further claims against them.

“At the time of our detention, we weren’t engaged in any protests, we were walking around Sochi. WE WERE WALKING,” Tolokonnikova said on Twitter.

Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova were released from prison on Dec. 23 under an amnesty that Tolokonnikova said was a stunt by Putin to improve Russia’s image before the Olympics. They recently returned to Russia after a tour through Europe and the United States.

The pair had been serving two-year jail terms for hooliganism motivated by religious hatred after performing a profanity-laced protest song against Putin in Moscow’s main cathedral in February 2012.

Western governments said the sentences were disproportionate, and Kremlin critics called the trial part of a clampdown on dissent during Putin’s third presidential term.

Tolokonnikova said she and Alyokhina had also been detained for seven hours Sunday and for 10 hours Monday. “Now we are riding around in a police van accused of theft,” she wrote.

A lawyer for the women, Irina Khrunova, said police had detained a large group on a Sochi street including accredited journalists, but said she did not know why they had been detained.

“In Russia it happens that they just do that,” Khrunova said when asked why the women had been arrested.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 19, 2014, on page 10.
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Story Summary
Pussy Riot protest band members Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova were detained Tuesday in connection with a theft in the Winter Olympics host city of Sochi, less than two months after their release from prison under an amnesty.

Alyokhina, 25, said they and others detained with them were questioned without lawyers present, and Tolokonnikova said that police had used violence during questioning inside the police station.

Sochi police, who had told Russian agency Interfax that the women were being questioned in relation to a theft in the hotel where they were staying, said they had no further claims against them.

Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova were released from prison on Dec. 23 under an amnesty that Tolokonnikova said was a stunt by Putin to improve Russia's image before the Olympics.

Tolokonnikova said she and Alyokhina had also been detained for seven hours Sunday and for 10 hours Monday.
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